Today our team visited Maama Jane. She is a widow who has served as a teacher for 40 years. In Uganda, teachers are severely underpaid, or sometimes not paid at all. For various reasons and corrupt scenarios, the payment issued by the government or private institution, fails to reach the hands of the teachers. Teachers like Maama Jane are paid little and can often go months, if not years, without a paycheck. (According to the Uganda National Teachers' Union, up to 30,000 teachers have been affected by irregularities on the government payroll since 2011).
Maama Jane explained that after many years of teaching, the government informed her that she was being let go and would no longer be paid. Maama Jane loved her students so much, however, that she continued to voluntarily teach at the school, despite living in poverty.
Mama Jane’s home revealed what is often the outcome for someone who chooses to continue to teach in Uganda. She lives in a 6ft by 12ft structure with couches squished in so she can receive guests. The uncomfortable conditions surrounding me were evidence of the life of sacrifice this women had lived for.
I told Maama Jane that I am a teacher and asked if she had any advice. She said, “A teacher has to be like a mother; she loves her children.” She went on to tell me that "You must be called by God to be a teacher." She said it takes endurance and a strength from God that I must ask for everyday. She said that I may be angry with a stubborn child or feel sick but, no matter the circumstance, I must draw strength from God, be patient, and always show them love.
This week I taught a drama class with the students at St. Johns, where Maama Jane teaches. Most of the kids in my classroom had no shoes, their clothes were tattered and their stomachs were empty. Students presented cases of ringworm, scabies and malaria. As Maama Jane spoke, I reflected on the state of the children that she knew too well as she continued teaching despitethe lack of pay she received to feed her own children and the poverty she suffered. Despite the devastating circumstances, joyfully Maama Jane encouraged me to continue teaching, to continue to love the children and to never stop drawing strength from the Lord.
Written by Rachel Webb
Kindergarten teacher at the Academy of G.O.D.
During our visit, Maama Jane received a package of food essentials (flour, rice, beans), paraffin (for her lanterns) and a toothbrush and toothpaste. She was very grateful and exclaimed "I have already had my Christmas this year!" Maama Jane lives right down the road from our property. While the issue of unpaid or underpaid teachers is not something we can immediately fix, we are doing what we can to help the teachers at St. John's Primary, and even assist them with payment as we are able. To read more on this cause, click here.